Art stars Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei stage refugee solidarity walk

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (left) walks with British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor (right) during a solidarity for refugees walk through London.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (left) walks with British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor (right) during a solidarity for refugees walk through London.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and British sculptor Anish Kapoor staged a symbolic walk through London in solidarity with the world's refugees on Thursday with blankets slung across their shoulders.

The two were joined by dozens of people also holding blankets as they walked from the Royal Academy of Arts, which is holding an Ai exhibition, towards Stratford in the east of the city, where Kapoor erected an Olympic sculpture.

"I think those people (the refugees) need understanding," Ai told reporters as they set off, weaving their way through London's crowded streets, past iconic landmarks including Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street residence and the Houses of Parliament.

Kapoor added: "We urge governments to do everything they can. On the whole, the responses have been political and not human and so we ask for human responses."

London buses beeped their horns as the artists and their followers, surrounded by television cameras, stopped traffic in their path.

Many of the walkers, who had been rallied on social media, were artists themselves.

"I think that it's great to have an action that is done by the artistic community to explore the role that art can have in raising awareness for the refugee situation, which I think is pretty critical," said Evie Hatch, a 21-year-old London-based artist.

Walkers were invited to each bring a single blanket as a symbol of the needs of the world's 60 million refugees, as Europe faces its biggest migration crisis since WWII.

"You cannot just sit and do nothing because it's going to come right to your doorstep," said Julius Mingle, of the Design and Artists Copyright Society. "There must be a European solution to tackle the whole situation," he added.

The walk is the first of several planned by Ai and Kapoor to take place in cities across the world over the next few months.

It comes ahead of the opening tomorrow of a major retrospective of Ai's work. The show is the first in five years which Ai can personally attend having recovered his passport, confiscated by Chinese authorities in July 2011.

Indian-born Kapoor hit the headlines earlier this month after his statue Dirty Corner at the Palace of Versailles in France was vandalised three times, once with anti-Semitic slogans.

Explaining his decision to leave the graffiti on the sculpture, he said: "It's very important that we don't just erase and pretend these things aren't there. They are there."